It’s not easy these days to be surprised by a story about graft in Russia. But a Reuters report a few days ago left us gaga.
“A Moscow court,” the story began, “ordered the arrest of a top anti-corruption police chief and his accomplice on Friday on charges of extorting $46 million from a businessman.”
The graft buster, Alexander Bokov, allegedly shook down a businessman who was trying to take over a transport firm, by convincing him the police — and only the police — could make the deal happen.
Bokov, who reported income last year of $33, 390, the story said, received at least $4.5 million of the amount extorted and used the money to buy real estate in Moscow and Europe.
He formerly headed “a Moscow-based bureau tasked with fighting organised crime . . . across much of the former Soviet Union.”
The story then concluded with this odd fact: “The price of an average bribe,” it said, “has been on the rise in Russia, surging by more than 30 percent last year compared to 2009, to an average of 30,500 roubles ($1,018), the Prosecutor General’s Office said last October.”
We’re wondering (a) how anyone could know the average size of a bribe in Russia, since corrupt payments happen in secret and (2) whether bribeflation is good or bad news? Does it show bribes are scarcer and therefore more costly? Or that bribe-takers are becoming bolder and demanding bigger payments?
Since it’s Russia — now ranked 154 on the corruption perception index — we’re assuming the spike in bribe sizes is simply more bad news for everyone there.